My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Violet and Finn are one of those couples that everyone believes is meant to be. Their story is one entwined with fate. They met once by chance and were reunited years later. Now married, with a young son, everything seems great for the couple. While vacationing in Florida, Violet cannot believe her good fortune. So imagine her shock when she returns from a relaxing nap on the beach to find their hotel room empty: Finn has vanished, and he has taken Bear, their son, with him. Violet has no explanation for this, and the FBI is quickly involved. Meanwhile, Finn's closest friend, Caitlin--who has become Violet's dear friend too--becomes entwined in the disappearance when Finn enlists her help. Will Violet ever see her son again? And why exactly did Finn vanish from that beach?
This novel definitely sucks you in right away. It's confusing and intriguing, as you're completely puzzled as to why Finn would run off and leave his beloved wife (and why would he take their son, too). In the beginning, I did not want to stop reading: the novel was completely addictive. Strawser slowly adds in additional details that thicken the plot, making Caitlin and her husband, George, as much as a part of the story as Finn and Violet. It's told in alternating points of view (Violet, Caitlin, Finn) and time periods, including after the kidnapping incident and before, leading up to Violet and Finn's history together. This effectively builds suspense and can drive you a tad insane, as a chapter in the past ends, leaving you dangling and wanting more details.
The problem for me was that, over time, the characters almost seemed their own worst enemies. Rather than a mystery/suspense novel, the book turns more psychological (nothing necessarily wrong with that) with each character bemoaning their various choices that have led up to this point. And seriously, they've made some stupid choices. It's one of those things where you want to scream: if you'd all just have talked to each other! Communication! Some of the ways of handling things seem awfully impractical for such serious issues (case in point: just about anything Caitlin does with her life, including her way of addressing the kidnapping).
Still, the novel continues to churn out some crazy twists, making it very interesting. The unveiling of Finn's past really carries the book about 3/4 through. You're continually wondering what happened, what he owes various characters, and why on earth he'd want to leave Violet (and take Bear).
As much as I enjoyed this novel and how suspenseful it was, I was frustrated by the characters - none of whom I cared for much at all beyond Violet. (I would have just strangled Finn if possible and potentially even Caitlin.) Again, some communication could have really saved some preposterous plot movements. There are a few times where characters seem to act way out of line for their development, etc. As the book nears a close, it drags on with their in-fighting and psychological messes, versus actual excitement, which was a little disappointing. I felt like we'd been through a lot of excitement for nothing and come out at the end with little but an emotional saga. The ending is awfully pat, too, and makes you think, really?
However, I truly did enjoy most of this book and found it incredibly suspenseful. It's easy to read and draws you in immediately. Even if you don't like all the characters, you'll be intrigued by their predicaments and the entire scenario. I'd certainly be interested in what Strawser comes up with next. 3.5 stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 03/28/2017.
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